May 22, 2022

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Lawmakers decry IRS plans to force Americans to submit to face-scanning technology

The US Treasury said on Friday it is considering alternatives to facial-recognition technology to verify...

The US Treasury said on Friday it is considering alternatives to facial-recognition technology to verify identities for online taxpayer accounts after some lawmakers raised privacy concerns. 

The $86 million partnership between the Internal Revenue Service and private contractor ID.me, which was announced in November, would be one of the biggest expansions of facial recognition software made by the US government. 

The measure has been met with criticism from lawmakers, who argue that the software is intrusive and inaccurate.    

Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, called the move a ‘very, very bad idea, ‘ adding that facial recognition is less accurate with dark skin tones.

‘This is a very, very bad idea by the IRS. It will further weaken Americans’ privacy. And facial recognition is less accurate for darker skin individuals. The IRS needs to reverse this Big Brother tactic, NOW,’ Lieu tweeted on Thursday. 

The $86 million partnership between the Internal Revenue Service and private contractor ID.me, which was announced in November, has been met with criticism from lawmakers, who argue that the software is intrusive and inaccurate

Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, called the move a 'very, very bad idea, ' adding that facial recognition is less accurate with dark skin tones

Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, called the move a ‘very, very bad idea, ‘ adding that facial recognition is less accurate with dark skin tones

ID.me has stated in the past that the use of the software is not unlike providing regular identification to authorities. 

‘Face match is equivalent to an airport agent comparing your face to the photo on your government ID card.’ 

ID.me has stated in the past that the use of the software is not unlike providing regular identification to authorities

ID.me has stated in the past that the use of the software is not unlike providing regular identification to authorities

‘Facial recognition is equivalent to giving your picture to the same agent, putting him on stage at a rock concert, and asking him to pick your face out of the crowd,’ the Virginia-based company wrote in a report in.  

The IRS announced in November that it will transition this year to identity verification using ID.me technology for accessing online services including tax records and Child Tax Credit information.

The process involves uploading a ‘selfie’ photograph to create an ID.me account and gained more attention this week as the IRS kicked off its annual tax return filing season.    

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said on Twitter that he was ‘very disturbed’ by the prospect of taxpayers submitting to facial recognition.

‘I’m very disturbed that Americans may have to submit to a facial recognition system, wait on hold for hours, or both, to access personal data on the IRS website,’ Wyden tweeted earlier in January. 

‘While e-filing returns remain unaffected, I’m pushing the IRS for greater transparency on this plan.  

Taxpayers are still able to file their taxes the old-fashioned way, but by the summer they might have to upload videos of their faces to ID.me to confirm their identities.   

The IRS announced in November that it will transition this year to identity verification using ID.me technology for accessing online services including tax records and Child Tax Credit information

The IRS announced in November that it will transition this year to identity verification using ID.me technology for accessing online services including tax records and Child Tax Credit information

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said on Twitter that he was 'very disturbed' by the prospect of taxpayers submitting to facial recognition

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said on Twitter that he was ‘very disturbed’ by the prospect of taxpayers submitting to facial recognition

There is no federal law in place to regulate how that data can be used or shared, the Washington Post reported. 

‘You go from a government agency, that at least has some obligation under the Privacy act and other laws, to a third party, where [there’s a] lack of transparency and understanding, and the potential risks go up,’ senior counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Jeramie D. Scott told the outlet.  

Roughly 70 million Americans filing for unemployment insurance, pandemic assistance grants, child tax credit payments have already submitted their information. 

Taxpayers are still able to file their taxes the old-fashioned way, but by the summer they might have to upload videos of their faces to ID.me to confirm their identities

Taxpayers are still able to file their taxes the old-fashioned way, but by the summer they might have to upload videos of their faces to ID.me to confirm their identities

The American Civil Liberties Union called the ID.me facial recognition technology ‘biased’ and ‘glitchy.’

A US Treasury official said on Friday that Treasury and IRS are looking into alternatives to ID.me.

‘The IRS is consistently looking for ways to make the filing process more secure but to be clear, no American is required to take a selfie in order to file their tax return,’ the department said in a statement.

A spokesperson for ID.me could not immediately be reached for comment. 

The company said in a statement on Monday that its technology complies with National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines to offer three ways to verify identity.

The firm said it provides digital identity services to 10 federal agencies, including the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans affairs, and 30 U.S. states.

Treasury said in its statement that a lack of funding for modernization of IRS information technology systems has forced it to rely on ID.me and other third-party service. 

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